The Fantastic Four franchise seems oddly at ease with its own mediocrity. Since the comic-book-to-movie influx, the trend has either been to treat the material with gravest sincerity or try to amp the camp to invoke the pulpy irreverence displayed by the comics in the first place. These films, with regards to superhero comics in particular, still seem to succeed or fail based on the writing and the director’s ability to mold it. The irreverence school has the tougher task: no matter how impressive computer-imagery can be, it’s just difficult to translate a graphic medium into live-action, especially when that action has to showcase the absurdities of something like Fantastic Four. It isn’t impossible — Raimi and Del Toro have proven that — but it’s a fine line that has to be straddled: Treat elastic, flaming, orange rock-covered or invisible people with a modicum of respect, or wink at the audience? Neither choice seems plausible.
But nobody involved with Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer seems to mind: not director Tim Story (who directed Taxi for fuck’s sake), not the writers (Don Payne and Mark Frost, who are responsible for My Super Ex-Girlfriend and The Greatest Game Ever Played between them), and certainly none of the actors. They recognize that their material is farcical, but they can’t even be bothered to salvage it as mindless entertainment. The whole ridiculous scenario is presented to the audience without the fun that should’ve been inherent; it’s a dull, diffident exercise that almost seems to aim for comedy in light of its total failure as action-adventure. But the comedy sucks, too.
Picking up where our last unfortunate journey left off, the foursome of Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd), Human Torch (Chris Evans), Invisible Girl (Jessica Alba, who here looks like an irradiated mannequin), and Thing (Michael Chiklis) are going through the super-heroic motions, with Fantastic and I.G. trying desperately to follow through with their wedding plans amid a media circus. Then an intergalactic surfer has the gall to show up and herald the apocalypse.
Beyond these schematics, the plot has almost nothing to offer beyond rote character conflict. Fantastic and Invisible Girl bicker and wonder if they should quit the team; Torch is conflicted about being an irresponsible douche with no girlfriend; Thing is…fine, actually. But he does nothing save stand around and grunt. The story is almost indescribably dull (even enervating), which is no small feat when it contains superheroes, the return of arch-asshat Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon), and a planet-eating cloud. It’s all preposterous in the worst possible way; worse yet, everyone is in on the joke and still unable to save it.
I’m at a loss for how cast or crew could possess such a pitiable dearth of either talent or interest in making a film, even a silly one, but this Fantastic Four sequel possesses such a palpable, ubiquitous ineptitude that even the most self-deceiving AICN geek will be indifferent.
Phillip Stephens is the lead critic for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer / Phillip Stephens
Film | June 15, 2007 | Comments ()